Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Opinion: Let’s Call a Spade, a Spade

Posted by Modou S. Joof on March 21, 2010 at 6:08pm
How Vibrant are Human Rights Institutions in Africa?

It is unarguable that the issue of “Human Rights” remains one of the hottest topics that dominate world affairs, especially the political domain.

The Gambia being the home of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has hosted uncountable seminars, workshops, ordinary sessions, NGO Forums, consultative meetings etc on human rights.

Yet the violation of peoples’ rights has not being the least on the decline. May be it is because human rights activists and institutions are not that much vibrant
or engaged in real time advocacy.

It is time we call a spade, a spade and in doing so, we’ll have to say that most human rights institutions in the country are vibrant only at organising
workshops. One can bet how many of them are really involved in thorough
investigations of gross violations of the rights of the common people? Or how
many have written press or news releases denouncing human rights violations?
Just a few and a few may be the Commission alone.

Speaking out remains a major setback in the fight against human rights violations, however, when the issue was raised during a Seminar on Legal Practice, Ethics and  Advocacy on January 25, 2010 (Bar Week), it sparked arguments. 
A senior legal practitioner said that “it is important to secure public confidence but people tend to unfairly look onto lawyers to stand for them.” With this statement, it is clear that some of those who supposed to speak for the people when cases of  human rights violations are reported are normally not prepared to stand out and be counted.

In another sign of refraining from responsibilities, a senior member of the Bar argued that “the Bar is not a political body that shall raise alarm when human
rights are violated, especially if not approached.”

However, our concern is that whether political bodies are the sole organs that should raise alarm when peoples’ rights are violated. If that is so, then what is the
essence of having uncountable so-called human rights institutions? In fact no
human right institution that worth its salt need to be approached before
embarking on investigations, defend or raise alarm when rights are violated.

It is unarguable that The Gambian media has since the colonial era stand out to defend the rights of the common man. It is time over due for other rights
bodies to stand out and be counted for the benefit of the common man.

On Africa: Over the weekend, the African Union Human Rights Organ held a Consultative Meeting on the Human Rights Strategy for Africa, where Dr. Mamadou Dia of the Department of Political Affairs African Union Commission noted that “The multiplicity of Human Rights Initiatives and Institutional Entities reflects a comprehensive but uncoordinated approach to the collective human rights mandates.” Yes, we agree that human rights initiatives and institutional entities are rapidly on the increase; however, this rapid increase is witnessing a more rapid increase on the violations of human rights across the Continent. 
So what does a Human Rights Strategy for Africa aims to do for the
very people whose rights are socially, economically or politically trample

For us, such a strategy should seek to address impunity, yes because most of the perpetrators of human rights violations across Africa do so with impunity. “Impunity should not be a
licence for people’s rights to be violated. It is time Africans have due
respect for the right of Africans.

“The probability that we may fail in the struggle, ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just,” Abraham Lincolm

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